Discussion and presentation of unorthodox games.

  • calunio
  • 01/24/2011 05:35 AM
I guess the desire to make games comes from the experience of playing them. Sometimes, when playing a game we really like, we think "I wish I could do something like this". Or maybe when we play something we DON'T like, we go "I would change that and that". Or maybe we just want to add a bit of ourselves into the games... "Instead of Cloud, me!". Programs like RPG Maker are not ideas, they are wish-come-trues.

It is very natural that our first game concepts are very similar to the games we played and love. They're the ones which inspired us.

Suppose I really liked Final Fantasy VI. And now I can make my own game. RPG Maker allows me to make one a lot like it. I can make a sequel, or even a remake! The taste for Final Fantasy leads to a natural tendency of making something similar. If you played other RPGs, maybe you can make something that combines their elements, bringing the best in them. Wouldn't it be awesome to have a game with a story as cool as FFT and the monster collecting of SMT? Wouldn't it be cool to have a Pokémon game with a less of a childish feel and darker plot? The possibilities are endless.


People don't realize the actual limitlessness of having a game making tool at your hands. This article is not a repetitive criticism to the lack of originality in games. I'm just presenting a type of gaming that some people might not have been acquainted with. Pushing the boundaries of making a game is not deciding if you're party will have one, two, or twelve members. Is knowing that you can have no hero at all. It's not deciding if it will use a modern or a fantasy setting. Is knowing a story can happen inside a drawer. It's not deciding between linearity and multiple endings. Is knowing a game can have no ending at all.

The point here is not to say that strange and innovative games are the best games. They usually aren't. The thing is... some people make games not trying to make the best game possible, nor trying to make a nice personal version of something they've played and liked. Some people experiment with games, with the tools they have. They try to create games that convey something other than just fun. They don't focus on gameplay or story, they use both as tools to promote an EXPERIENCE to the player. They want the player to experience something.

These games are not everyone's cup of tea. Like I said, I'm not saying they're better than more traditional games. I like them mostly because I'm fed up with traditional games (not cause they're bad, but because I've played too much of them), and because I feel there's something to be learned from strange games. If you make games, no matter how traditional they are, I recommend trying some of these games below... not to copy them, but to open your mind and broaden your horizons on gamemaking. Most of these games are extremely short (5-15 minutes). So they're worth a try.

My original intent was to make a Weird Games Top 5. But I could only think of 4 games worthy of a ranking. I must emphasize that I'm ranking them not based on quality, but based on the criteria I explained above: those are games that experiment with gamemaking tools, and they convey some feeling or experience to the player.

Weird Games Top 4
by Calunio

4 - Digital: A Love Story

Digital is a game about a love story that happens online. At some point in the past, before the internet as we know it, people communicated and shared information through BBS, which were some form of primitive forum/chat mixture. All of Digital's story happens in this online world, through your computer platform. This game is very dense and appealing on replicating the experience of using this pre-historical internet... and it's also a love story. We all know that designing palpable love stories on games is no easy task, let alone in a purely textual game. And you won't be alone if you say this game made you cry.

3 - Passage

It's very difficult to talk about this game. If I say anything about the gameplay, I'll be spoiling it completely. If I say anything about the story, I'll be spoiling it completely. You might as well argue there is NO gameplay or story in this game. Still, for some reason, it leaves a strong impression on some people, a strange and somewhat disturbing feeling, like it did on me. If you're curious, just play it already, you can finish it in about 5 minutes.

2 - Clock of Atonement

In this game, you play as a crazy stalker that just killed the girl he loved and stalked. He regrets it deeply. But you have the opportunity to go back in time and change things. What will you do differently? This game features an interesting time-travel mechanic. But it doesn't come down to what you can do differently... but to what you can't. It's a very short and clever game, and it has even been featured in RMN.

1 - Loved

Loved is in many ways a very traditional platformer. There is no real gameplay innovation here. You walk, you jump, you avoid obstacles and pitfalls. The addition to this is that there are some... instructions along the way. You might notice they make no real difference to the platforming part, or your performance. But they completely change the gaming experience. This is a very disturbing game, even though it's really short.

There are some games which are not in this Top 4, but they're worth noting. They're not there because they didn't make such big impression on me, even though they might be better games overall.

Yume Nikki - Live the bizarre dreams of a lonely girl. This is an exploration game, but there's an actual goal and an ending. This game is very popular, and it outbizarres Space Funeral by miles.
Coma - "Get me out of here... get me out... of myself". Very beautiful touching game.
Covetous - A very short game about life, death and greed. It demonstrates how the complete lack of difficult can make sense.
Looming - An exploration game. Walk through a large empty field and discover information about strange alien races. My original reaction to this game was "it sucks". But the fact that I played it for hours intrigues me still.
The Company of Myself - A game about sad and loneliness. Clever puzzle gameplay that matches the story perfectly.
The Particle of Infinite Free Will - Ever wondered what's it like being high?

Final Words

I know I don't have the most unanimous taste for games. My intention was not to impose my tastes or to be judgmental about "good" or "bad" games. I just wanted to show people that there's more to indie gaming than we might think at a first look. Even if you're still making a traditional well-structured RPG, playing a game like Loved may inspire you on some important design choices. Or maybe you'll find out you can make interesting games even though you can't sprite or map or write, but you still have "ideas". That's what making games is all about.

Download Links
You can download Yume Nikki here, and Clock of Atonement here.


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"Wouldn't it be cool to have a Pokémon game with a less of a childish feel and darker plot?"

Im doing this. Its not overly dark, but it doesnt have all the "OMG IM all HAPPY" kinda thing.
I played Yume Nikki not too long ago. At first glance, it appealed to me, but as I experienced it more, the less I was enjoying myself. I'm not sure why I didn't like it, though. I can't really pinpoint where exactly I felt it was not satisfying me as an experience should.

I enjoy the surreal and just plain bizarre, but I enjoy it far more when the mechanics behind the experience are just as interesting and have as much as effort put into them as the aforementioned. This is why when I see a potentially strange experience bogged down by half-assed... everything else, I'm not going to defend it to the point where it's one great quality excuses everything else. That's a disservice to other games.

I can argue worthless semantics all day about just how "innovative" some of these games are in the grand scheme of things - they're not - but it'd be an exercise in futility. Not worth it.

Anyway, I can see where you're coming from. Experiment, broaden your horizon, and see what lurks around the corner. All fine points which can help the fledgling game designer in many of us. This is a commendable quality.

I can also understand why someone would be tired of the "generic fantasy chosen one saving the world traditional RPG" schtick. The RM space is oversaturated with those kind of games.
I wasn't a big fan of Yume Nikki myself. The overall atmosphere was nice, but I got tired of it quickly. It felt like weirdness for the sake of weirdness. It's interesting that it was based off some real person's dreams, but still... didn't keep me going for long. That's why I didn't make it top 4. But it's in there cause it fits the "weird games" description I gave.

If Yume Nikki had something of a decent RPG gameplay, it wouldn't fit the description anymore. It would be more like Space Funeral, which is weird, but still a regular RPG. The feeling of loneliness and aimlessness if what makes Yume Nikki what it is. Some will like, some won't.

I guess in games like that the gameplay doesn't have to be fun, it just have to contribute to the overall experience or point being made. For example, in Covetous you just move around and touch objects in a very small space. It's extremely easy. But it's meant to be, because it makes you feel like you're being coward, like a parasite.

In Passage, all you do is walk forward. You can take detours and walk different ways, but they eventually lead you to the same place. And that's exactly the point being made.
I enjoyed this article! Kind of makes me want to get into another project :(
Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence
I love weird games. I want to play all of these.
I think it's really a free range when you make your games, and they aren't set in a realistic place. It's nice to sprite and map when the things you make don't have to look like something. They can just be anything you want.

It's nice to just let the creative juices go wild when you're pixeling, not to have a plan or anything. You just go with the flow and make whatever you want to make next.
I downloaded/played a few of the games on here. There's some real mind jobs.

However, there is an ending to "Every day the same dream":


You just have to do different things until there's no more "steps until you're a different person".
Wow, cool, I didn't know that. I had only played the "course" once, but people said in the reviews that there was no alternative ending.
I just played Loved. Wtf did I just play? I don't get it.

This is another nice short game. I liked it a lot:


I just played The Illusionist's Dream. Wtf did I just play? I don't get it.
these games are pretty inspirational, i was thinking of doing an...'arty' (in the weird sense, not the lots of art sense) game when i have more free time, but my concepts are always a bit shaky or half-way-there.
paradoxes/manipulation of psychology/disturbing seem to make for the more interesting ones.
good article!
Yeah, though these games are kinda easy to make, coming up with a good concept is not as easy as it seems.
POSSIBLE VIRUS???DO NOT TRUST THE SWEDEShttp://cactusquid.com/games.htm

I recommend everything here, but especially the "mondo" games. So surreal that I was actually scared
That site set my virus scanner off Jericho ;(
it did not give me a virus. regardless the games are mondo agency, mondo medicals, and mondo x-mas for the holidays!!!

they can all be found...very easily....on the internet world~
I played through Loved a few times. It definitely put a weird taste in my mouth, which is a good thing. The concept of it being harder to move when you disobeyed, or when you did as you were told the environment became dull and more distorted. Very interesting.

I think games like this need to be short. When they're long the effect starts to dull a bit, but when they're short games like these, the general question people ask when it abruptly ends is,"Wait.. what?" It just samples some weirdness to where curiosity takes over, then it's gone. Good article.

EDIT: and just played Cho's post, saw the ending coming but it was really something
(and I I didn't realize you had to HOLD X during the pissing mini game, so I was hitting X and thinking man this guy's got some problems since it was one drop at a time -_-)

EDIT 2: AHH I have played company of myself a long time ago. It was pretty weird, but I had a friend with me at the time so I think that detracted from the weirdness a bit.
My game is semi-weird. It's making a modern, VX, platformer game. No scripts.
My game is semi-weird. It's making a modern, VX, platformer game. No scripts.

A VX platformer with no scripts. Wow. I am sure that is a very worthy addition to this list of games, or even of a plug in this article.


I recommend everything here, but especially the "mondo" games. So surreal that I was actually scared

Psychosomnium is my favourite =)
"Wouldn't it be cool to have a Pokémon game with a less of a childish feel and darker plot?"

you're welcome =P
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